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France is the largest country in the EU, stretching from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. The landscape is diverse, with mountains in the east and south, including the Alpine peak of Mont Blanc (4 810 m), which is western Europe's highest point.
The most important sectors of France’s economy in 2012 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (22.6 %), wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (18.3 %) and real estate activities (13.2 %).
France’s main export and import partners are Germany, Belgium and Italy.
Geographical size: 632 833.6 km2
Population: 65 287 861 (2012)
Population as % of total EU population: 12.9% (2012)
GDP: € 2.032 trillion (2012)
Official EU language(s): French
Political system: semi-presidential republic
EU member country since: 25 March 1957
Seats in the European Parliament: 74
Currency: Eurozone member since 1 January 1999
Passport-free travel? Yes, Schengen Area member since 14 June 1985
Presidency of the Council: France has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 12 times between 1959 and 2008.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the French government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of French presidencies:
Jan-Jun 1959 | Jan-Jun 1962 | Jan-Jun 1965 | Jan-Jun 1968 | Jan-Jun 1971 | Jul-Dec 1974 | Jan-Jun 1979 | Jan-Jun 1984 | Jul-Dec 1989 | Jan-Jun 1995 | Jul-Dec 2000 | Jan-Jun 2008
More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.
The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
France has 24 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee . This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
France has 24 representatives on the Committee of the Regions , the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
France also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As France's "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of France’s finances with the EU in 2012:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by France helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how France benefits from EU funding.